1. Spend a few days travelling around your local area
Knowing your geography and getting your bearings is key, especially considering the size of the urban area in most of China’s big cities! Travel around on the bus networks, and the metro networks, when you have time on the weekends so you are adept at getting around when more pushed for time! The cost is often very minimal and a fraction of the price of UK transport costs. Learn how to say and pronounce the names of areas and key landmarks in your city, useful for providing details for taxi drivers, taxi’s being very low cost and a remarkably convenient way to get around.
2. Get involved in a sports club
A very quick way to get to know others, and build relationships whilst keeping fit. Table Tennis, Badminton, Swimming and Basketball are all big in China, with most big cities having facilities for as wide a variety of sports as you can play in the UK. Being a new face, and a teacher, you may even be asked to attend social dinners, and even take on some coaching at the club!
3. Try as many different foods in as many different restaurants as you can!
The Opportunity China website contains many pages plugging the variety and flavours of Chinese food, and it is hard to get the head office team to stop talking about their favourite dishes (Sichuan Hot Pot and Guangdong soup if you must ask..)! There really is something for everyone in China and the only way to get to know what you want is to try everything, and don’t fall into the trap of making judgements on food too early. It is very cheap to eat out, and a common social custom to do so in China, so you can visit restaurants twice/three times a week if you like, even every night if you find a favourite eatery!
4. Meet up with other teachers in China
Opportunity China’s ambassador scheme ensures you get in contact with other teachers already teaching in your area, and they will be able to provide the necessary advice that you cant find in the guidebooks. As well as help settling in, it is also a good opportunity to meet up and share lesson ideas/resources and advice in the classroom, as this can really help to diversify and enrich your lessons with local foreign teacher expertise.
5. Avoid the temptation to take on extra work
Some teachers whilst in China do choose to take on private English lessons in their spare time and perhaps at weekends, and this can be a good secondary source of income. However, overall our teachers said that whilst tempting, it is good to keep this time free to Explore, Travel, and experience the culture more. It is very common to be approached by lots of parents in your first few weeks as a teacher as the demand for learning English in China is huge, but your main job does require focus and commitment to effectively plan and deliver lessons, and it is always good to have time to relax and immerse yourself in Chinese culture in the other ways mentioned above.